Trio facing felony burglary, grand theft charges were living in La Cañada home without permission, property owner says

Trio facing felony burglary, grand theft charges were living in La Cañada home without permission, property owner says
L.A. County Sheriff's deputies cleared out a vacant house on Harter Lane March 2 occupied by alleged squatters. (Roger Wilson / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Three individuals arrested at a Harter Lane home last week in connection with a La Cañada residential burglary were arraigned at a Pasadena courthouse Monday on charges of felony burglary and felony grand theft, a sheriff's detective reported Wednesday.

Sgt. Alan Chu with the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station said a 36-year-old white male appeared in court on a charge of grand theft and is scheduled for a March 22 hearing.


The other two suspects — a 36-year-old Latina female and a 23-year-old black male — were arraigned on charges of burglary Monday and released on their own recognizance pending future court dates.


"The [district attorney] was thinking of only filing misdemeanor charges," Chu said Wednesday, indicating the suspects' prior histories and the fact the burglary was simply a property crime were considerations. "But I think we were able to convince them to file felony charges."

The arrests were made the morning of Thursday, March 2, four days after deputies responding to a family disturbance call at 5209 Harter Lane recognized several pieces of furniture that strongly resembled items stolen from a vacant home on Noren Street weeks earlier.

"[The furniture] had been taken out of another house that was for sale," Chu said in an interview at the scene of the arrests. "It was pretty unique."

Sheriff's detectives were able to positively identify the stolen furniture from photos provided by the home staging company that owned the pieces and had arranged them in the Noren Street house, according to Chu.

A search warrant for the Harter Lane home was prepared, and sheriff's deputies and detectives returned to the property around 7 a.m. Thursday to execute the warrant, Chu said. Three adults at the property were arrested for burglary.

It remains unclear whether the three suspects — and a number of other adults and children seen on the property Thursday — were living there legally. Real estate listings online indicate the 2,833-square-foot residence was a foreclosed home.

Posted on a gate leading to the property next to a "No Trespassing" sign was a piece of paper titled "Notice of Lawful Use of Space and Peaceful Inhabitation [sic]." The notice informed law enforcement officers and state officials of the inhabitants' rights to remain unmolested.

"Failure to follow state laws may result in legal action taken against you," the notice read.

A La Cañada resident asking to remain unnamed out of concern for the safety of her family, contacted the listed owner, Altisource Asset Management in the Virgin Islands, about the status of the property and was told the company was aware the occupants were living there illegally.

"We are required to file a formal complaint, which we have done," Altisource general counsel and secretary Stephen Grey replied in an email to the resident's request. "The occupants of the home did not respond to the complaint and the attorney has already submitted the default judgment and writ to the court. There is an expected lock-out/removal of the squatters in the near future."

Chu acknowledged there was a dispute as to whether the people occupying the Harter Lane home were allowed to be there, but said the issue was not under the purview of the sheriff's department.

"That is a civil matter," he said Wednesday.


Sara Cardine,

Twitter: @SaraCardine